Culture / Fashion / Style

A Man for All Times: Tom Ford On Movies, Love, His Texas Roots and Why It’s Always Coffee

BY // 10.01.15

Tom Ford has finally done it. The Texas-born fashion designer and filmmaker is in the 29th year of a relationship with the man he loves. He and that man, Richard Buckley, were recently married and are the proud parents of 3-year-old Jack. Ford has quit drinking; he’s working on the follow-up to his critically acclaimed movie A Single Man. Nocturnal Animals, a film based on the novel Tony and Susan, will hit screens in 2016 and stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams and Kim Basinger. Oh, yes, the man who took over the nearly bankrupt Gucci in 1994 and turned it around, and the Svengali behind the resurgence of Yves Saint Laurent in the early 2000s, is now the face and brains behind one of the most successful brands going — Tom Ford — and is well on his way to running, as he calls it, “the first true luxury brand of the 21st century.”

The Tom Ford boutique opened on October 1 in Houston’s new River Oaks District, a paean to his glamorous universe of men’s and women’s wear, accessories and fragrance. Yes, Ford has indeed found what we all desire: the elusive secret to happiness, contentment and success. In case you’re wondering, it’s equal parts obsessive attention to detail, an unerring sense of elegance, and an existential imperative to create one’s own perfect universe, in which everything is simply as it should be. And coffee, never tea.

James Brock: I’ll begin by asking you about Nocturnal Animals. I read Tony and Susan and was fascinated by it, by the way a book within a book attempted to show the interior motivations of individuals, their self-doubt, fears and desire. What about the novel made you want to translate it to the screen?

Tom Ford: Well, a book is a book and a film is a film, so don’t necessarily expect the film to be the same as the book. I have owned the rights for the book for several years. I knew (hoped) that I could make it into a film people would be interested in, but due to the development of our business and the birth of our son, I did not have the time to work in earnest on another film project. Now that time has come, as Jack turns three in September, and our company is well on its way to becoming what we set out to make it, the first true luxury brand of the 21st century.

Colin Firth and Julianne Moore, A Single Man, 2009
Colin Firth and Julianne Moore starred in Tom Ford’s 2009 directorial debut, A Single Man.

JB: What for you is the intersection between fashion design and film directing? You shot A Single Man in 22 days … What is your secret?

TF: I think that the key to being successful at what one does is to be stimulated by it. I love fashion,but I have been designing for almost 30 years now. Film for me is a pure form of expression, and I have to say that making A Single Man was the most fun that I have ever had. When you are excited about one thing in your life, that excitement and energy spill over into everything that you do. So, even if I am a bit physically exhausted by both making a film and running my fashion business, I will be creatively energized and that will affect all that I do. When you are happy, you are better at everything, I think. For me, cinema is a parallel universe: When characters, stories and images are so vivid that they become a kind of reality, then it becomes an alternate and permanent world in which nothing grows old. Cinema is the ultimate design project, in that one creates an entire world that is permanently and forever sealed. It is perhaps the most lasting thing that one can create. One of the most frustrating things about being a fashion designer is that what you create has a short life span. Fashion can be powerful, but its effect fades quickly.

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JB: Your 2016 Spring/Summer men’s collection created a lot of buzz, and people remarked on the Warhol-inspired look and spirit. Does Warhol resonate with you?

TF: I did know Andy and many of the people around him. I am absolutely an admirer of Warhol and am lucky enough to have bought a few pieces of his work at the right time. As for the look of the most recent men’s collection, I am a classicist; for me, Andy’s look and the look of New York in the ’60s and ’70s as it relates to menswear has become a classic.

JB: PaperCity last had you on its cover in November 2004. In the accompanying story, you said you wished you were spending more time in Texas. What comes to mind now when you think of the state where you were born?

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TF: Manners. People in Texas generally have great manners. I love that about Texas and Texans. I also love the bold, unapologetic style that many Texans have. My grandmother had that, and I still think that she was one of the chicest women that I have ever known. She was not afraid of style and loved clothes.

JB: Your ranch in Santa Fe seems to be your refuge. How does your mood and perspective change when you are there? And I have a feeling you like the art of Georgia O’Keeffe …

TF: I find that time alone on my ranch really allows me to think and balance myself. This is essential before I begin the creative process each season. I love the art of Georgia O’Keeffe; her look and personal style to a certain extent inspired my AW14 women’s collection. That season for me was a fusion of my urban London life with my American Western roots.

JB: You have been with the same man, Richard Buckley, for 29 years, and are now married to him. Your thoughts on the recent landmark Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage?

TF: It was long, long, long overdue.

JB: In Interview magazine, you spoke to Gus Van Sant of “that isolation we can all feel even though we are surrounded by people.” You have also spoken of the affects of neglecting what you described as the “intuitive, spiritual side” of your character. Thoughts about isolation and creativity?

TF: I think that people are different, and that some thrive on being with others. I thrive on being alone and having time to think. I am completely comfortable away from all connections to contemporary culture. I have always thought that I have two sides — a public version and a private one. I am a definite introvert, and my energy comes from my inner world and not my outer world. I love being alone, although that is less and less possible.

JB: In the Van Sant interview, you mention Isherwood, a great writer and a superb chronicler of his (and our) time. Do you have any literary touchstones — men or women whose vision inspires, moves,transports you? Also, do you have plans to write a novel or short story collection?

TF: I read A Single Man in the early 1980s when I was in my 20s and had just moved to L.A. It spoke to me. I fell in love with the main character, George. I later met Christopher Isherwood and became obsessed with his work. I reread A Single Man in my mid-40s and found it to be a very spiritual book, and it had a different kind of relevance for me. I am still finishing up my screenplay for Nocturnal Animals and currently do not have plans to write any novels or short stories. But then again, I have also learned to never say never.

JB: On favorite clients, people whom you have dressed: What qualities do they possess that you admire?

TF: All of my favorite clients possess one essential element, and that is a strong sense of knowledge about themselves. A true sense of who they are. Knowing yourself is the most important thing in all aspects of life, I think.

Tom Ford on the set of A Single Man, 2009
Tom Ford directs a scene on the set of A Single Man. His new film project, Nocturnal Animals, will hit the big screen in 2016.

JB: You studied architecture, and I know that you are very exacting about your interior spaces (and the exterior ones, I am certain). Who is your favorite architect?

TF: There are so many great architects practicing today, but Tadao Ando is one of my favorites, and he designed our ranch in Santa Fe. Mies van der Rohe is my all-time favorite architect. He was brilliant.

JB: Fashion design has been very good to you, and you to it. Name a person whose work/vision/creations (other than Tom Ford) made you into the designer you are.

TF: Ralph Lauren was really the first designer to create an entire world and not just clothes. Growing up, his approach to the fashion industry influenced me greatly.

JB: How has residing in London changed you? Do you now take tea in the morning, or are you still drinking iced coffee?

TF: Do I drink tea? No, I do not. I have never really understood tea, to be honest. It has always just seemed like brown water to me. I like the “bite” of strong coffee. As for London, it’s a great city. I suppose that I am old-fashioned in that I do love a certain formality and politeness. Manners are important to me. I think that we have lost that a bit in the states. Except, of course, in Texas!

JB: Your son, Jack. For whom (if anyone) was he named?

TF: Afraid that I really don’t talk about Jack in the press.

JB: I imagine you approach your diet/dining with much thought. Do you dine out often?

TF: I really watch what I eat. And I am lucky genetically, I think, too. I try to stick to a diet of fish and vegetables, but my one remaining vice is cheap candy and baked goods. If I am in America, Hostess Donettes are my weakness — those miniature powdered donuts. If I even see them, I have to eat the pack. So there is junk layered on top of a really healthy diet.

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JB: You’ve spoken at length about your alcohol philosophy and decision to quit drinking; that said, do you ever sip wine during a meal? I ask that because you seem to me someone who desires perfection in every bite of life.

TF: In my 30s and 40s, I drank a lot. I have to say probably one of the reasons that my drinking did get out of control was living in London. You can very easily consume 10 drinks a day and be considered absolutely normal. It became too much. Once I stopped drinking, I found this clarity, which can be painful for a while, but my life has just fallen into place. I built a business, made a movie, had a child. I am much happier not drinking. And no, I do not sip wine with dinner. Not a smart thing for an alcoholic to do!

JB: It is the fall of 2015. What is your 10-year plan from today?

TF: I plan to continue working on building my fashion company, making films and, most importantly, being the best father possible to my son.

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